Lions test squad predictor: Loosehead prop

In the final of our test squad predictor articles, we take a look at those guys contending for the no.1 jersey. Look out over the next few days for the collated squad as picked by you, the readers, and then when Gatland announces his we’ll see how it compares.

Mako Vunipola

The bolter, the third choice, the impact sub – whatever you wanted to call Vunipola when the squad was announced, he has shed the majority of those labels in a series of power-packed performances in the famous red shirt. His work in the loose is second to none, and some of his handling is more reminiscent of a centre than a prop. Where he is arguably behind the other two contenders is in the scrum, where his technique can be slightly lacking. It could come down to which hooker is selected, as the power of Hibbard in the set-piece would allow Vunipola to have more of an influence on games in the loose. If Youngs – himself very good in the loose – is selected, being a smaller man he might need the scrummaging prowess of Corbisiero next to him. At the moment, the first of those scenarios is more likely than the latter.

Verdict: probable test starter

Alex Corbisiero

It has been an unreal year for the USA-born England prop. He would have been thrilled to be selected for the England tour of Argentina after suffering a cruel fate with injury, but to then be called into the Lions squad as injury cover would have been beyond his dreams. After further injury to Gethin Jenkins, he is now set to be involved in the test matches, and has an outside chance of starting on Saturday. He is one of the best scrummagers around at the moment, as England found out way back in the autumn when he shored up theirs against the much-vaunted South African outfit. He does lack a ball-carrying presence in the loose, however, so it will come down to how Gatland wants his pack to be balanced. As a late arrival, he is probably most likely to find himself on the bench.

Verdict: on the test bench

Ryan Grant

Arguably harshly overlooked in the initial selection process, Grant was the recipient of a Gatland phone call after it was confirmed that Gethin Jenkins’ tour was over. Since arriving his chances have been limited, with his first start coming in today/s 14-12 loss to the Brumbies. Sadly for him, the front five did not dominate as they should have done against an outfit with infinitely less experience, and he was guilty of a couple of scrum penalties. Very much third choice at the moment, but the way the looseheads are dropping like flies on this tour, it is not too much of a stretch to think he may be involved in some way as the test series goes on.

Verdict: not in the test squad

Over to you for the last time now – cast your vote for who you’d start at loosehead on Saturday in the first test.

[poll id=”257″]

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

10 thoughts on “Lions test squad predictor: Loosehead prop

  1. Corbs to perform solidly in the first half, then Vunipola to come on around 50-60 as an impact sub.

  2. Corbs – I know a lot of it was just bile but after reading Dwyer’s notes on Vuni’s scrummaging I couldn’t help but notice on Sat that he was right – in most scrums Vuni’s butt is at right angles to the touchline as soon as the first shove comes on. I fear a penalty fest and I haven’t see Vuni do anything yet that would convince me he can come up with something different in the scrum to avoid the penalties.

  3. similar to the hooker situation, i would be happy with either of the top 2 options starting.

    i think that Corbs would maybe be a better starter, as he will be good in the scrum, and Mako will bring great impact off the bench.

    Having said that, Mako has been outstanding, and his ball carrying will make an impact from minute 1 if needs be.

    hopefully the lineout will be much better in the tests, but its failings so far would lead to me plumping for Corbs in the scrum, to try and make sure we have a good platform from that set piece.

    Grant’s performance today put him in the same bracket as Best – would be travelling home if there were other available options.

    1. I can’t help thinking that Andrew Sheridan flying out would have put more fear into the Aussies than Ryan Grant…….they haven’t forgotten what he did to Al Baxter & Co.

  4. I think Vunipola with Youngs and Jones is a good option to start. Hibbard Corbs and Cole off the bench. I think the bench we had today will be the same on Saturday. Vunipola in the loose is dangerous and could put the Aussies on the back foot early.

  5. If it’s Corbs, Hibbard & Jones it will be a formidable scrummaging unit, but I’m not comfortable with excluding both Vuni and Youngs (clearly performed the best individually in their respective positions this tour).

    The Welsh scrum wasn’t too spectacular against Ireland in the 6N (with Rees) and only became the dominant force towards the latter stages of the 6N with Hibbard (and Jenkins getting rid of the evidence of his pie eating). The power in the tight Hibbard brings is undervalued, Vunipola was excellent outside him against Castro in the Baa Baas, so I’m settling on Vunipola, Hibbard & Jones as the starting front row.

    Be interested to hear an opinion from someone voting for Grant as to why he should start. Based on his performances thus far James, Marler and Sheridan would have been far better options.

  6. Not to say that Grant should start, Vunipola deserves the spot with his form and gametime, but had Grant been involved from the start we would’ve probably seen his barnstorming best which makes him, on his day, the best loosehead on tour at the moment. Gats has made numerous selection mistakes and this was just one of them, another casualty of the calamitous Gats/Rowntree collective.

    1. he was awful against the brumbies.

      no barnstorming, no dominance in the scrum, in fact the only moments of note were a) that needless penalty he gave away b) the shiner he picked up.

      he is on the tour, as are Corbisero and Vunipola. they have both produced the goods. and lets not forget that Healy and Jenkins have both returned home.

      there is no way that you can say that grant is the “best loosehead on tour at the moment” because his form is not good.

      there is no point in hypothetically saying “oh if he was on form” because he hasnt been. and his lack of form has justified his initial exclusion. whats more, Grant has been there about as long as Corbisero (maybe a day less) so there is not really any excuse there. Also, it doesnt matter how long you have been with a team, scrumming, rucking and carrying stays the same.

      based on the small bit of what we saw of Dan Cole playing loosehead, and the fact that Steven can play there, i would argue that you could probably say Grant isnt even 3rd choice loosehead at the moment, much less “best on tour”

    2. Corbs and Grant arrived together and have both had an opportunity to make a claim for a test shirt. To get a test shirt he just had to be better than the guy that was in the same (well probably worse as Corbs had a 40 hour journey) situation as him. Corbs has won that battle hands down.

      Don’t think he’s a bad prop (it’s great we’ve got so much strength in depth), but can’t see the argument for him being selected ahead of Healey, Jenkins, Vunipola or Corbs. On his performance yesterday Sheridan, James and Marler can consider themselves unlucky as well.

  7. Grant has a lot to offer we have not seen the best of him yet as for the fair play to them all . We are not on the park they who are you to judge.

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